Panda Bear: TOMBOY

Posted 05/05/2011 by cal

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The songs on Tomboy aren’t the best songs Panda Bear has ever come up with, although most of them are still really good.  Individually, they’re more interesting for what they evoke, what they remind you of.  For instance, I want to try superimposing Captain Beefheart’s “Bat Chain Puller” over “Afterburner”.  I think it might be awesome.  Also, I think if you strip the title track down to its bare bones, you’ll arrive at nothing but Panda alone strumming an electric guitar and singing.  It’s something we may never see him do, but that’s the essence of the song, like an old Liz Phair demo.  And “Surfer’s Hymn”--go figure--sounds an awful lot like a Beach Boys jam, except on more complicated, modern drugs.

It’s only superficially about the songs, though; nobody in modern music but Noah Lennox is able to exude such warmth and gushing buoyancy and overpowering giddiness through the production of a record; even the darkest moments are paradoxically comforting.  The sound washes over you like an 80-degree monsoon on a brisk April morning, like new life sprouting up in front of you in time-lapse 3D, waves of pure, natural emotion uncorrupted by thought.  Before you allow yourself to stop and think about these songs, you have to let them embrace you.  If you try to penetrate them on first listen, you’ll never get that chance back.

Once you start to analyze it, you second-guess yourself.  You tell yourself you’re just being seduced by this incredibly lush sonic overload, like maybe this is the aural equivalent of Avatar.  Deconstruct the songs, you tell yourself, as if an intellectual assessment will render them good or bad.  Is it really worth the effort to decipher these lyrics?  Well, “Slow Motion”, definitely, but overall these words are best enjoyed as shapes for sounds; even if they were as trite and blunt as the plight of the Na’vi, they couldn’t kill the splendor.  You don’t need to do anything except listen and feel, but that’s the point: make a powerful record, mission accomplished.

Bottom line: Lennox needs the push and pull of his bandmates to wrestle out his greatest compositions, but he needs nobody else to create a great album.  I highly recommend immersing your soul in this one.

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